Open up specialized high schools
by Comptroller John Liu
Apr 10, 2012 | 1996 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Recently, some 28,000 New York City families found out whether their kids gained admission to the city’s top-tier Specialized High Schools.

Of the approximately 12,500 black and Latino families among them, over 90 percent were disappointed.

Even though more Black and Latino kids take the Specialized High School admissions exam every year, few of them find their way in, despite a slight uptick this year.

Right now at Bronx Science, of 3,005 students, only 320 are Black and Latino, or 11 percent. At Stuyvesant, of 3,295 students, 120 are black and Latino, under 4 percent. Yet Black and Latino students make up some 69 percent of the New York City Public High School population.

What are the admissions barriers for minorities to the Specialized High Schools? Getting in requires one thing alone: performance on a single test.

Assemblyman Karim Camara and State Senator Adriano Espaillat are sponsoring state legislation to change this. They would include several factors: grade point averages, interviews, personal statements, portfolios, and an entrance exam.

Another item to consider is geographic diversity, which could work by reserving a seat for the Valedictorian and Salutatorian, or the top five percentile, of every public eighth grade class in the City.

While we explore legislative options, the city should do everything currently possible to increase Specialized High School diversity. Like:

• Examine the effectiveness of current support programs such as the Specialized High School Institute and the summer Discovery program, which are directed at low-income students who want to prepare for the Specialized High Schools.

• Analyze the Specialized High School Test for predictive bias.

• Boost math education among minority students as early as third grade.

• Create more Specialized High Schools like the Math, Science, and Engineering School at City College of New York.

As an Asian American, I must speak out on this issue. When my family came to this country it was because my parents wanted my brothers and me to grow up in the American educational environment, with its creativity and innovation and its encouragement of free expression.

Entrance to the New York City Specialized High Schools should not be dependent on the ability to perform well on a single test.

Let’s also remember that most New York City students will not attend these schools. And every student deserves a great high school.

As our city’s chief financial officer, I am often asked for stock picks. My response is always: education is the best long-term economic investment the city can make.

We need to build on the great foundation we have in New York City and pour our energy and resources into our public schools, because they are the key to spreading prosperity.

City Comptroller John Liu is a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science.

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